In conclusion, children born to unmarried parents are disadvantaged relative to children born to married parents in terms of parental capabilities and family stability. Additionally, parents' marital status at the time of a child's birth is a good predictor of longer-term family stability and complexity, both of which influence children's longer-term wellbeing. (link to source)
Before I continue, please let me say that this post is not intended to condemn unmarried parents. I am not speaking specifically to anyone's individual situation, nor would I want to judge anyone. I have known unmarried mothers who have placed babies for adoption, others who have remained unmarried but raised their children, and others who have married the father. It is not for me to say what should happen in a particular situation. No one is perfect, and we all just do the best we can. This post is, however, an essay in support of what some would call "old-fashioned" values. I speak of marriage that precedes pregnancy.
I have been taking a paragraph or two each week from The Family: A Proclamation to the World and discussing it. This week, however, and for the next several weeks, I will break a paragraph down and only write about a sentence or two at a time. The paragraph we have come to has so much "meat" in it that it deserves more attention than just one blog post. So for today, let's look at these sentences from a paragraph in the proclamation:
THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.Children can not control the marital status of their parents, but their parents can. "Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony." Not only that, they are entitled "to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity."
Men and women are different, and fathers and mothers meet different needs for their children. Children deserve to have both fathers and mothers in their lives. (Again, please remember we're speaking ideally here.)
When children see parents who honor their vows, they feel safe and secure. I am not a perfect parent, but my children knew that they never had to worry about their parents divorcing. Whenever they would hear about friends parents divorcing, they would say to me, "You and Dad will never get divorced, right?" They saw us nurturing our marriage with weekly dates, common courtesy, and kind words. Our actions supported our words of comfort and security: they could always count on us to stick together, and they would never be faced with the question of, "Should I pick Mom or Dad?"
Beyond feeling safe and secure, seeing parents who honor marital vows with complete fidelity helps children understand that it is possible to be happily married. It gives them confidence and courage to marry when they are grown, and they can see a pattern to follow, hopefully even improving upon the examples of their parents.
The next post in the series will talk about happiness in family life. No matter what our family composition, there are principles that we can follow to increase happiness.
Thanks for marriage, children, family, and the proclamation.